Commanders offense will be different in Eagles rematch

Commanders offense will be different in Eagles rematch

ASHBURN, Va. — In all nine weeks of the 2022 season, the Washington Commanders’ worst offensive effort came in Week 3 in a 24-8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz was sacked nine times in the loss, as Washington finished with just 240 net yards in the afternoon, just 50 in the first half.

The Commanders get another shot at Philadelphia, the NFL’s last undefeated team, this Monday at Lincoln Financial Field. And Scott Turner’s offense will be different from his poor efforts in Week 3.

The most obvious change in Washington’s offense is the player under center. Wentz’s first return to Philadelphia as a visiting player will be sidelined with a finger injury as Taylor Heinicke is set to make his fourth straight start.

Statistically, Washington’s offense was slightly more productive with Heinicke under center; commanders average more points and total yards with the No. 4 under center. Two of Heinicke’s three starts have ended in wins, with the only loss coming a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter last week against Minnesota.

“I think there were ups and downs with both guys,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. “I think it has a lot to do with who you play with.”

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The offensive of the commanders led by Heinicke is far from being the The greatest lawn show. With each of Heinicke’s starts, the attack went into prolonged lulls, preventing the group from really gaining momentum.

“It’s kind of a weekly deal where we have good practices and we just stall,” Heinicke said Wednesday. “We just have to convert third downs or stop getting hurt. It’s one of two things. So I think if we keep working on that, really perfecting that and training and we improve in these things, we can put in place a few more points.”

All of these issues are ones that need to be addressed in order to pull off the upset this week against the Eagle.

Although Philadelphia has yet to face Heinicke this season, he is a familiar opponent for the Eagles defense. Led by defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, the Eagles returned many of the same plays from 2021; that same group faced the Heinickes in Week 17 of last year, a game the Washington QB nearly won before throwing a late-game interception to seal an Eagles victory.

“This [Week 17] The game stuck with me throughout the offseason,” Heinicke said. throwing was unfortunate. [John] Bates kind of tripped over this guy’s foot. I think if he hadn’t he might have grabbed that thing and scored. You just sort of go back and think about this piece. What if he caught that and scored, that could have made him the playoffs and who knows what would have happened?”

The spotlight will be especially on Heinicke this week and not just because Commanders-Eagles is a prime time game.

Wentz is eligible to return from IR after this week’s game. Head coach Ron Rivera declined to comment on whether the team will stay with Heinicke or reinsert Wentz into the roster when he is healthy to return. At least for now, the job is open.

Heinicke doesn’t put any extra pressure on himself one way or another.

“My role this year was to come up to Carson and if he went down, be ready to play,” Heinicke said. “I feel like I’ve done that. I’ve got at least one more and we’ll see what happens. But I just go out there and try to win games for this team, and if they want to put carson back in great i’ll be the best replacement i can be for him and i’ll help him any way i can but for me right now i’m just going in and trying to do the best that I can.

Washington’s change at quarterback isn’t the only significant difference in the Commanders’ Week 3 offense so far. Rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr. — has handled a good chunk of runs since his NFL debut five weeks ago — was on the non-football injury list the last time these two teams met.

Last week, Philadelphia’s run defense struggled to slow down Texans running back Damien Pierce, who finished the night with 139 yards on 27 carries. Perhaps Washington – a club that enjoyed a four-game winning streak in 2021 by effectively managing the football, controlling time of possession and playing solid defense – can replicate that formula by leaning heavily on Robinson and Antonio Gibson.

“I think he’s fine. He can continue to be more decisive,” Turner said of Robinson. “I think the more he plays the more comfortable he is going to feel. He will continue to play faster and faster and his speed and physicality will show up more and more.”

Washington’s offensive line had a day to forget when these two clubs faced off in Week 3. Wentz was sacked nine times in the game, a season-high, something the QB took responsibility for after the contest, but it was nonetheless a tough outing for the unit as a whole.

This Monday, the Commanders will look different than they did in Week 3. Right tackle Sam Cosmi hasn’t played since suffering a finger injury in Week 4 against Dallas. Wes Schweitzer, who started at Central Washington against Philadelphia earlier this season, is on IR. Tyler Larsen, the current Commanders starter, is struggling with a back injury, which means veteran Nick Martin could be pushed back into the lineup if Larsen can’t go.

Despite the moving parts along the Commanders’ offensive line, the group needs a much better effort this week against Philadelphia than it did seven weeks ago.

“We have to manage their front,” Turner said. “Obviously we have to block them, but we have to help these guys get the ball out. Guys [have] open quickly. We can give them a little help with some of the other players, change the schematics on them, all those types of things. But that’s the problem. We [have to] do a really good job right off the bat managing that group of guys up there and how well they play.”

Commanders could also get a boost away from home this week as Jahan Dotson took full part in training on Friday for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in Week 4 Dotson, who is still the team’s touchdown leader (four) despite missing five of the team’s nine games, would obviously provide a major boost to Turner’s unit.

If Dotson is able to play Monday, it will be the first time Washington’s top three receivers — Dotson, Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel — have been healthy with Heinicke at quarterback. That should only help an offense that has flashed at times but also struggled in clusters.

“That would be huge,” Turner said. “Obviously when he played at the start of the season and he had a knack for getting into the end zone and making big plays. I think he’s on the right track. I don’t know not for [his status] of course this week but he is healthy and seeing him move is good so it would be important to bring out another playmaker [there].”


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